Sunday, October 15, 2006

Virtual Boy History

The Virtual Boy born 21 July 95

In the spring of '94 rumours about Nintendo's VR-project started circulating in the media. It was Gunpei Yokoi and his R&D1 team that, with the aid of the people at Reflection Technology Inc., had been working on the Virtual Boy for two years. Speculation began about how the new machine would revolutionize the gaming market and sketches of the VB began to circulate. By the time the Shoshinkai-exhibition came the hype was enormous! Everybody wanted to know what Gunpei Yokoi had accomplished this time. (Gunpei is the genius that developed both the Game Boy and the Game&Watch machines, so the expectations were quite high!)
ShoshinkaiThe visitors at Shoshinkai weren't pleased at all. They thought the VB was only a pathetic attempt by Nintendo to draw attention from Sega and Sony's new 32-bit consoles. But the Virtual Boy was produced by Nintendo, the most respected video game company in the world. Great confusion broke out, they didn't know what to think! The console and the games looked crappy but it was from Nintendo, so could it really be that bad? Most of the dissatisfaction was in the games: nothing revolutionary at all, and they were all in red! The red colors supposedly gave the game a better 3D look. At the big WCES (Winter Commercial Electronics Show) four months later, some new better games were shown: Mario Clash, Teleroboxing and Galactic Pinball. These new games were quite good so the press became a little bit curious. Maybe the VB wasn't going to be such a big flop after all.
The VB is releasedOn the 21st of July, 1995, the Virtual Boy was released in Japan and in the states a month later. Nintendo thought it would sell very well (they hoped it would sell 3 million copies) because the VB didn't have any competing consoles. Both the Saturn and the Playstation played in a totally different league. They couldn't have been more wrong! In Japan, the VB sold poorly and the price dropped drastically on both the machine and the games. Nintendo estimated that the VB would sell 250,000 copies in Japan but it ended up selling less than 50,000! One problem that arose (which worried the parents) was that it was said that playing the VB could cause eye damage to children under the age of seven. In the US, the machine hardly sold at all and it was never released in Europe. Players bought Playstations and Saturns instead, even though they cost twice as much! At Shoshinkai 95 Hiroshi Yamauchi (the big boss at Nintendo) confessed that the machine had sold less than Nintendo had calculated, but they hadn't lost all their hope for this strange product yet. New games that made better use of the VB´s special skills were to be released. Unfortunately, by now most of the players of the world weren't interested in the Virtual Boy. Nintendo just had to live with the fact that the Virtual Boy was a flop! No, they don't produce VB games at all anymore.

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